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3.98 / 5

"Boy21" Summary

By Matthew Quick

young adult | 250 pages | Published in NaN

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A high school basketball star forms an unlikely friendship with a troubled boy who believes he is an alien.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick: A Tale of Friendship and Resilience


In Matthew Quick's captivating novel, "Boy21," readers are immersed in a poignant tale of friendship, resilience, and the power of hope. Set against the backdrop of Bellmont, a struggling town in the outskirts of Philadelphia, this coming-of-age story explores the complexities of human connection and the ability to overcome adversity.

Brief Synopsis

The plot centers around the life of Finley, a high school basketball player who finds solace in the sport after a tragedy strikes his family. The story takes a compelling turn when Finley is assigned to be the basketball mentor for Russ, a new student who goes by the name Boy21 and believes he is an extraterrestrial stranded on Earth.


The story unfolds in Bellmont, a gritty town with a history of economic decline and racial tension. Bellmont is characterized by its dilapidated houses, abandoned factories, and a tight-knit community struggling to survive. This setting serves as a metaphor for the challenges faced by the characters, highlighting the resilience and determination required to navigate their circumstances.

Main Characters

Below are the key characters who shape the narrative of "Boy21":

FinleyThe protagonist, a talented basketball player who uses the sport as an escape from his troubled personal life.
Russ (Boy21)A mysterious new student who believes he is an alien. His unique perspective challenges Finley's worldview.
ErinFinley's girlfriend, who provides emotional support and stability in his life.
CoachFinley's basketball coach, who serves as a mentor and father figure, guiding him through difficult times.

Summary of Story Points

Chapter 1-5: Introducing Finley and Russ

  • Finley, a talented basketball player, is assigned to mentor Russ, a new student who believes he is an alien.
  • Finley's girlfriend Erin offers support and encourages him to help Russ.
  • Finley learns about Russ's difficult past and his obsession with space.

Chapter 6-10: Building Friendship and Trust

  • Finley and Russ bond over basketball, with Finley teaching Russ the fundamentals of the game.
  • Russ opens up to Finley about the trauma he experienced and his connection to outer space.
  • The boys face challenges from the Bellmont basketball team and navigate racial tensions within the community.

Chapter 11-15: Struggles and Triumphs

  • Finley's father is released from prison, causing tension and disrupting Finley's newfound stability.
  • Russ begins to question his identity as an alien, leading to a crisis of faith.
  • Finley and Russ face a life-threatening situation, testing their friendship and resilience.

Chapter 16-20: Healing and Moving Forward

  • Finley and Russ find solace and healing through their shared love of basketball.
  • They confront their fears and insecurities, preparing for the future.
  • The story concludes with a hopeful outlook, highlighting the power of friendship and the ability to overcome adversity.

Main Events

  1. Finley is assigned to mentor Russ, a new student who believes he is an alien.
  2. Finley and Russ bond over basketball and face challenges from the Bellmont basketball team.
  3. Finley's father's release from prison disrupts his stability.
  4. Russ questions his identity as an alien and experiences a crisis of faith.
  5. Finley and Russ face a life-threatening situation, testing their friendship and resilience.
  6. Finley and Russ find healing and prepare for the future, highlighting the power of friendship.

Themes and Insights

  • Friendship: The book explores the transformative power of friendship, showcasing how connections can help individuals overcome their personal struggles.
  • Resilience: The characters in "Boy21" demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, showing the strength and determination required to navigate challenging circumstances.
  • Identity: Russ's belief in being an alien prompts readers to question the nature of identity and how it shapes our perception of ourselves and others.
  • Community: The novel sheds light on the impact of community on individuals' lives, emphasizing the need for support and understanding within a struggling town.

Reader's Takeaway

"Boy21" offers readers a thought-provoking and emotionally charged narrative that explores themes of friendship, resilience, and the search for identity. Through the compelling characters of Finley and Russ, Matthew Quick presents a heartwarming story that reminds us of the power of human connection and the ability to rise above adversity.


Matthew Quick's "Boy21" takes readers on a captivating journey through the lives of Finley and Russ, two individuals who find solace and strength in their friendship. Set against the backdrop of a struggling town, this novel explores themes of resilience, identity, and the transformative power of human connection. With its well-drawn characters and evocative storytelling, "Boy21" is a compelling read that will resonate with readers long after the final page.

Boy21 FAQ

  1. What is the plot of Boy21?

    Boy21 is a coming-of-age story about Finley, a high school basketball player, who befriends a new student called Boy21. The book explores themes of friendship, identity, and healing as Finley helps Boy21 cope with his traumatic past.

  2. Who is the author of Boy21?

    Boy21 is written by Matthew Quick.

  3. Is Boy21 a standalone novel?

    Yes, Boy21 is a standalone novel and does not have any sequels or prequels.

  4. What genre does Boy21 belong to?

    Boy21 is a young adult fiction novel that combines elements of sports, drama, and coming-of-age genres.

  5. What are the main themes explored in Boy21?

    The main themes explored in Boy21 include friendship, trauma, basketball, identity, and healing.

  6. Is Boy21 suitable for all age groups?

    While Boy21 is primarily targeted towards young adult readers, it can be enjoyed by readers of various age groups.

  7. Does Boy21 address important social issues?

    Yes, Boy21 touches on important social issues such as mental health, race, and socioeconomic disparities.

  8. Are there any notable awards or recognition for Boy21?

    Yes, Boy21 was a finalist for the 2013 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction.

  9. Can Boy21 be adapted into a movie or TV series?

    There are currently no announced plans for a movie or TV adaptation of Boy21.

  10. Where can I purchase a copy of Boy21?

    You can purchase a copy of Boy21 from various online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.